As a creative child growing up in Forest Lake, Minnesota, Maria said she had firm opinions about dressing since she was in diapers. “I spent most of my childhood quietly drawing and playing dress-up,” she explained. “My mom used to sew, and I remember watching her, but I was fairly self-taught when I started making my own clothes in high school.”
Although she was a good student, she preferred spending time in the art department. “I dreaded the thought of going to college until I discovered FIDM,” she said. “I begged my parents to let me apply, they said yes, I got in, and moved to Los Angeles two months after graduating high school, and never looked back.”
While at FIDM, Maria interned at an outerwear brand called Tulle and she designed loungewear for a celebrity stylist. She learned the “ins and outs of this ‘biz” at a family owned company, Bizz Inc., and designed their ready-to-wear brands for a couple of years before they asked her, at age 24, to launch a new contemporary collection.
That brand, Harlyn, which was featured in Vogue, was Maria’s passion for five years and made her realize she wanted to be an entrepreneur instead of having bosses. “Working in an office environment was always hard for me,” she said. “I need to travel!” After realizing Minneapolis was growing creatively, she decided to return home and operate her own business.
She told the publication that short-term trends are her enemy. “I believe you’re going to want to wear your Maria Stanley piece every day, and it’s going to last the rest of your life because I focus on ethically made, beautiful, well-cut, functional pieces. I focus on building a long term relationships and evolving with them over time,” she said.
An advocate for the slow fashion movement, Maria produces her collections in a family-owned and run factory in Delhi, India (her knits are made in Peru). The result is hand-finished, low-impact pieces that are as natural as possible. She’s currently experimenting with plant-based dyes. “Just like the food we eat, we should know where clothes come from and the story behind them,” she added.